Spring is the start of a “new year.” At the March Steering Committee meeting we elected a new slate of committee members, identified members willing to serve in volunteer positions that while not part of the steering committee are critical to keeping our chapter running and will be creating a calendar for the next 12 months. Also, as inspiration for our “new year” several members of the leadership team attended a Slow Food California leadership meeting in Sacramento and were inspired with ideas for potential new projects and events.
Serving on the Steering Committee for the coming year are:
Chair: Linda Elbert
Co-Chair/Secretary: Ted Wright
Treasurer: Steve Widmayer
Communications: Nina Macdonald
Membership: Gillian Poe
Serving in voluntary positions for the coming year are:
Outreach: Gillian Poe
Publicity: Stacey Rollings
California Policy Committee Member: Keith Schildt
Book Club Organizer: Diana Tierny
Snail of Appreciation: Larry Elbert
All Slow Food members are invited to attend our monthly Steering Committee meeting. This is a way to connect with other members and to let us know your thoughts/ideas about the direction of Slow Food Orange County. We meet in private homes and share a potluck meal at our meetings. If you would like to attend and need details please contact our Co-Chair Ted Wright at
The Slow Food California leadership conference, hosted by the Sacramento chapter was held on March 29 & 30. Representatives from chapters throughout the state and members of the Slow Food Transnational Committee from Canada and Mexico attended. The meeting opened with a presentation from the representatives from Canada and Mexico who are interested in working in collaboration with Slow Food California.
The Slow Food Canada chapters focus much of their effort around fishing and the dwindling share of global fish stocks. They encourage only the seasonal consumption of wild salmon on the West Coast, discourage the consumption of any form of farmed salmon including “organic” farmed salmon, and are committed to the restoration of wild salmon stocks. They would like Slow Food California to work with them in supporting their efforts and encouraged us all to watch TED talks related to sustainable fishing, fisheries and seafood.
The representatives from Slow Food Mexico generated a variety of collaborative ideas such as joining to work on nomination of transnational Ark of Taste products, Slow Tours to Mexico featuring presidia projects, formation of sister chapters between chapters in Mexico and California chapters and working together on school gardens. The ability to work on these type of larger projects is one of the reasons Slow USA encouraged the formation of a Slow Food California regional structure with the goal of creating a larger sphere of influence than a local chapter acting alone. It will be interesting to see how these projects develop throughout California and in our Orange County chapter.
I was also inspired by the extensive work of Slow Food chapters in working with local food banks and influencing the quality of school lunch programs. The Slow Food Sacramento chapter has worked extensively with the Sacramento Food Bank to improve the quality food available, through creating community gardens to supply fresh foods, teaching about healthy cooking and bringing food distribution out to community garden potlucks to end some of the embarrassment at having to stand in line for food. The Slow Food Davis chapter presented their extensive school garden program. They began their program by reducing school waste. The reduction in waste management costs to the school district was tremendous and funded a large school garden program. The gardens now have grown to the level that the district purchases produce from the school gardens for their “crunch bars” (the name given to salad bars). The district also asked the garden program to farm district land that was unused to provide more produce for school lunches. School lunch staffs have been provided with “chef training” and funds have been raised to build kitchens in the new schools built without kitchens at the time when lunches were sourced from a central food processing location. Our own Slow Food Orange County is just beginning its micro grant program. It was very inspiring to see the influence of these local chapters and think about where our chapter might be headed!
Our Ark of Taste Tasting is a living and growing catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. The idea behind the this Ark of Taste catalog is continued education, identification and championing of these foods to make sure they continue to be produced and will be available for us to enjoy and eat.
The Ark of Taste catalog is also a tool for farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, grocers, educators and consumers to celebrate and preserve our country’s diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage.
At our upcoming tasting event we will be serving what is now the West Coast’s only indigenous rare oyster, the Olympia Oyster, which used to be plentiful along the West Coast but because of its popularity was overfished and almost completely disappeared.
A century and a half ago Mark Twain exclaimed, “T’was a brave person indeed, who first ate an oyster”. Yet like many San Franciscans in the 1860’s, he fell in love with the west coast’s native Olympia oyster. After abandoning the Mississippi riverboats for fear of being drafted into the army, Twain traveled to California and took lodgings at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, a hotel he soon titled “Heaven on the half shell”. There he wrote about gorging on the petite, coppery-flavored bivalves and indulgences until midnight on “oysters done-up in all kinds of seductive styles”. The Oly, as it was called, was the classic gold rush oyster, a staple of celebrations and everyday meals in San Francisco restaurants and oyster saloons.
It didn’t take long before the boom-town’s residents had mostly wiped out the native oyster population of San Francisco Bay and were getting oysters from whoever could ship them in especially Washington and Oregon who also sacked their native oyster beds to feed a growing California population. San Francisco’s appetites nearly wiped out the Olympia oysters.
Also contributing to the decline in cultured Olympia oyster production have been civil engineering projects in estuary areas along with urbanization and domestic and industrial pollution. Yet despite all this delicious oyster is slowly making a comeback.
The oysters we will be serving are locally sourced and sustainably farmed in Carlsbad and have been donated for the event from Carlsbad Aquafarm, www.carlsbadaquafarm.com.
For the tour Michael smoked the oysters. His recipe for Smoked Oysters can be viewed on our blog also.
Michael’s cooking experience began in childhood, learning from his mother who prepared healthy meals for a family of nine on a daily basis. His first job in the food industry was assistant cook at a Girl Scout camp near San Luis Obispo, California, which he says was probably the strangest job a 15 year-old could possibly have. But the sirens’ call of the theatre drew him to a career in stage production. He is currently the Production Manager for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre, a program that uses live storytelling to teach children and their families healthy choices such as nutritious eating and active living.
He discovered Slow Food while flying to Portugal, reading the cover article of the New York Times magazine that would become Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivores’ Dilemma” and he continues to search for Slow Food in far flung and closer to home places.
Michael cooks daily for his wife and friends, using seasonable items from the garden and the local farmer’s markets, getting to know his food purveyors as friends. He is the proud papa to a cat and three chickens who provide him with the best eggs ever. The chickens, not the cat…